Monday, November 30, 2009

Our First Holiday

We spent Thanksgiving eve and Thanksgiving Day with Brad's parents and his brothers and sister at the "deer camp" in Briggsville. We knew going into it that this would probably be a difficult time...our first major holiday without Hannah. I'm not sure that I was prepared personally for how difficult it actually was. We've become pretty accustomed to life at home as a family of three...caught up in the busy-ness and routine of school, work, basketball, cheerleading, etc. As we stopped to celebrate Thanksgiving, however, especially as an extended family group, Hannah's absence was glaring. If you've followed this blog for awhile, you know that the "deer camp" was one of Hannah's favorite places to be. I put "deer camp" in quotes, because it's probably not exactly the rustic, primitive place you may be picturing in your mind.

This deer camp actually consists on several hundred acres, which have been in the Sullivan/Castleberry families for many, many years. Originally, the camp consisted of a mobile home, which sits on the site of the Sullivan family homestead. The firepit outside the trailer is actually ringed by stones which at one time formed the mantel for the family fireplace. Recently, Brad's parents bought his great aunt's 4-bedroom house, which is not much more than a stone's throw from the trailer, as the crow flies. So now, the deer camp is actually made up of the mansion on the hilltop (the house) and the chateau on the lake (the trailer sits on a pond). Well, it's not exactly that fancy, but that's what we jokingly call them. It's actually very comfortable and homey...not just a hang-out for hunters.

As I said, Hannah loved spending time there with her sister, her grandparents, all of her aunts and uncles, and most of all...her cousins. The house was acquired after she became ill, so she spent most of her time at the trailer (when she wasn't hunting or riding 4-wheelers around the fields). The six cousins (all girls!) had their own room at the trailer, and their grandma gave them permission to put some grafitti on one of the walls.

If you look carefully under the words "COUSINS -4- LIFE" you can see a list of all the cousins, in order of age...Hannah, Bethany, Emily, Hayley, Allison, Caitlin, and Faith. I know, if you count that up, it's actually seven girls...Faith is only 11 months old, so she has never had the chance to spend the night in that room with her won't be long, though!

Here's some of Hannah's grafitti....

While we were there this past week, the cousins found this notebook page in a pile of stuff in that room....What a treasure! It is now prominently displayed on the "Cousins' Wall".

Hannah's family loves her too...and we sure missed her this week! It was very difficult for me to be at the deer camp, where memories of her are everywhere. Like I said earlier, we've become accustomed to the memories we encounter every day within our usual's a little more difficult when we're out of our normal setting.

Someone who began walking the same road I am on ten years ago sent me an email last week that said, "God chose you to love Hannah and to teach her to love Him. Sounds as if you completed that job." That was a unique perspective for me...I'm still rolling that thought around in my mind. I do believe that Hannah completed her job here on earth...but I had never really thought about how I had completed my job with her. I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to do that job as her mom...and I'm thankful that Hannah was able to express her thanksgiving directly to her Father Himself this year. What an awesome thought!

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